Song of the Week – Ten Years Gone, Led Zeppelin


Most of you that read this weekly missive are music nerds, so you’re probably already aware that this week marks the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s classic double album Physical Graffiti.

The story of Physical Graffiti really starts in earnest in January 1974 when the band assembled at Headly Grange (the Grange), a dank 18th century English estate where the band had recorded albums starting with Led Zeppelin III, to work on some new tracks. By March they had tapes of eight very strong songs that would become enduring classics in the Zeppelin catalog. Those rough mixes were for:

• Custard Pie
• In My Time of Dying
• Trampled Under Foot
• Kashmir
• In the Light
• The Wanton Song
• Sick Again
• And today’s SotW, Ten Years Gone

When the mixes for these songs were finished over the summer, there was too much music to fit on a single album, but the band couldn’t stomach the idea of dropping any of them. So they decided to release a double album and filled it out with seven leftovers from recordings dating back as far as 1970.

But let’s get back to “Ten Years Gone.”

It has been well documented that Robert Plant’s lyric was inspired by the memory of a 10 year past relationship he had with the younger sister of the woman he was then married to.

In a 2010 article in Classic Rock magazine, the great rock critic Barney Hoskyns wrote:

The song’s feel suggests a less dramatic ‘Kashmir’, with another airy dose of mysticism in the lyrics: “Then as it was, then again it will be/And though the course may change sometimes/Rivers always reach the sea…” Personally I love Plant’s hippie-dippiness because it’s shot through with empathy and compassion: give me his flowery poetics over the flip worldliness of a Mick Jagger any day.

Old wounds are keenly felt in the song’s hoarse middle-eight outpouring of “Do you ever remember me, baby/Did it feel so good…”

And the music is in my favorite Led Zep style – you know, those songs like “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” where they start out with gently picked acoustic guitar then go all dinosaur stomp, loud hard rock.

In a Rolling Stone article called “50 Artists’ Favorite Playlists”, producer Rick Rubin described “Ten Years Gone” as “A deep, reflective piece with hypnotic, interweaving riffs. Light and dark, shadow and glare. It sounds like nature coming through the speakers.” That about covers it.

Jimmy Page’s guitar riff was too good to pass up, so 2Pac sampled it for 1997’s “Life’s So Hard.”

Enjoy… until next week.

14 thoughts on “Song of the Week – Ten Years Gone, Led Zeppelin

  1. I pretty much lost interest in LZ after the 4th album. To me their first two albums are their best, the rest are developments or rehashes or both as you wish. Ten Years Gone is my fave from this album but it kinda sums them up, taking too long to get to the great “Did you ever want somebody part,” and then snatching it away. Like so many they were victims of their success.

  2. I totally love this song. During the bridge, Page does a rake a couple of times on the one and it gives me shivers, as the chord is so beautiful and shimmering.

    I also confess a love for “Down By the Seaside” from PG, but I really like the whole affair.

    Great choice Tom!

  3. A friend of mine turned me on to this site, and tipped me off to the Zeppelin and Spock posts. I replied in an email to him. Geez, I could just comment here! I wrote:

    Damn. I remember when PG “dropped,” as the kids were saying last year. I keep eying the CD bins for used 2-CD deluxe LZ releases, especially III. I learned a lot about rock ‘n’ roll (and Roy Harper) from that one. PG was a bite too big for me to chew at the time, but I bet I’d enjoy it now. Gotta disagree with Tom Muscarella, though, about the best LZ style. He evidently prefers the proto-grunge stuff. I do like their exploding ballads, too, but “Communication Breakdown,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Immigrant Song,” I’m sorry, the ones that break out at full speed and hurtle all the way through are my favorites.

  4. Someone once created a short animation and posted in on youtube: some mice in a boat with Immigrant Song as the soundtrack.

    I like Led Zepplin a lot more than I did in high school.

    I am with you on this, Dean.

  5. I mowed a lot of lawns so I could buy the first Led Zeppelin album the day it came out. Or the first day it was available in the Smithtown music store, where is where I also took guitar lessons.

    They were never better, the songs were never so concise, but they did have higher peaks. That’s why this talk is so productive.

    Does anyone think they made a better album than I, II or III?

  6. 1) I like Houses better than III.

    2) Can’t even imagine what a kick in the teeth that first album must’ve been when it came out in January of 1969. I was still diddling my little radio knob at that point.

    3) What the heck were you getting paid per lawn, Peter, to have to mow many to buy one album? You needed a manager or child labor laws.

  7. I got stoned on weed for the first time, while listening to Zep 1 the first time in late Jan 1969 or thereabouts. As noted, that gave me a lifetime of relief from Crohn’s.

  8. I’m pretty sure I prefer I and III to Houses, but Houses is the only one I own, go figure, not counting the 7″ of “D’yer Maker.”

    I, too, mowed lawns to support my habit, i.e., my vinyl habit, but I bought weird shit like medieval dance music.

  9. I remember hearing Good Times Bad Times at a party in the summer of 1969 and it blew me away. As I recall, #2 came out that fall and I loved it to death. I had a big negative reaction when I first heard the “original” Killing Floor and Bring it on Home, for they are pretty much straight steals. It wasn’t until years later that it occurred to me that the originals weren’t the originals either. But Zep did have to pay Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy II a million bucks, which was much more serious money in 1971.

  10. Funny. When I first listened to the Zep–and I loved “1” and songs throughout their career–I loved the originals like Good Times and Communication Breakdown, and sort of dismissed You Shook Me, kind of like I dismissed 1955 baseball cards in 1961 cause they were old.

    Now they kill me. That said, so does Communication Breakdown, still, and Good Times, Bad Times. But, I must say, 10 Years Gone and Down by the Seaside do rank in my Zep top 10 just as fantastic pop/rock songs.

    I can also say, that since I started seriously playing music, around 18 years ago, my appreciation of the Zep has increased significantly. They are indeed one of the great bands.

  11. It is precisely because I never started *seriously* playing music, but only ever piddled around with it, that my appreciation of LZ arose. I’ll leave the heavy lifting to the big boys.

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